Cardinal Krajewski distributing food in Lviv, Ukraine Cardinal Krajewski distributing food in Lviv, Ukraine 

Cardinal Krajewski: the Pope wants to be close to Ukrainian people

The Pope’s Almoner has concluded his mission in Ukraine, where he brought electric generators and thermal shirts to the people afflicted by the conflict.

By Benedetta Capelli and Salvatore Cernuzio

Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Service of Charity, concluded his mission in Ukraine, where he delivered electric generators and thermal shirts to people suffering the tragic consequences of the war.

"Everyone suffers here"

Once again, the Almoner has become a messenger of the Pope's solidarity to the inhabitants of the "battered" country.

Pope Francis himself, who has been in constant touch with the Cardinal since the beginning of the journey on December 17, wanted to personally thank him with a voice message, sent from a cell phone.

"The Holy Father sent me a message via WhatsApp. He was happy to 'be here,' to be close to the Ukrainian people through his Almoner, to be able to confirm the people in their faith, to pray with them, to be with them, to eat with them, to suffer with them, because everyone suffers here,” Cardinal Krajewski said to Vatican News.

“Just think of these big buildings without light, without water, with people who cannot even go to the bathroom.”

Back to Rome

Cardinal Krajewski spent Christmas in Kyiv and is now returning to Lviv, the first stop of his journey. From there, driving a van, he will head back to Rome.

"I've been around a bit, and now I'm starting to get on the road from Kyiv to Lviv, where I'm meeting Greek Catholic priests. I am ready to make these 2,000 kilometers to Rome," the Prefect stated.

“In Lviv, I brought all the generators and thermal shirts I could. Then with the car full of thermal clothing, I arrived in Kyiv and delivered everything to Caritas. They started distributing to the different parts of Ukraine, especially in the war zones.”

Christmas in Kyiv

Cardinal Krajewski recalled how, on Christmas afternoon, he went "outside Kyiv, 80 kilometers away, to a place called Fastiv, where there are Dominicans who have a parish and a home for refugees. At the beginning of the war, so many people were staying with them, and they organized several buses to get people out of the country."

At 9 p.m. on Christmas Eve, the Cardinal celebrated Mass: "We were in the church with generators; there was no light. It is difficult for us to understand this: when there is no light, no heating, you cannot cook."

Cardinal Krajewski greeting Ukrainian people
Cardinal Krajewski greeting Ukrainian people

"Fortunately, with the money sent a month and a half ago to the Nuncio from the Office of Papal Charities on behalf of the Holy Father, big generators were bought," the Prefect added. "We used one of them to celebrate Mass and give light to the house where the refugees are."

Dinner with volunteers

Before Mass, a dinner was held with a menu of Ukrainian food. "We spent two hours together; they told me stories that are uplifting me," the Cardinal reflected.

With Krajewski and the Dominicans were 150 volunteers from various nations and religions. Boys and girls who "during these 300 days of war formed a community that helps and cooks, that 2 or 3 times a week goes to Zaporizhzhia, Odessa, to bring food and clothes. I gave them some of the t-shirts, and they will distribute them to the Ukrainian soldiers and the people living there who are left with nothing," the Cardinal said.

The Pope's Rosary

According to the Prefect, that was a “beautiful” moment: “There was peace. Even though we are in a place that is often bombed, there was tranquility."

About 300 people attended the Mass and then returned home before 11 p.m., because of the curfew. The Prefect gave the community a gift of a pearl Rosary from the Pope.

“I asked that every family, every person, present there, take this Rosary at least 24 hours at home, even if they are of different religions, as a sign of union with the Holy Father. I explained that Our Lady not only gave birth to Jesus but stood before the Cross, so she knows what suffering means.”

Light in the darkness

Cardinal Krajewski's support to Ukraine was, therefore spiritual, as well as material. He brought to the people afflicted by the conflict the message of the "hope of rising again" and the "light that Jesus brings us to the world, while in Ukraine, it is total darkness."

"When I returned to Kyiv, you could not see anything," he Cardinal reported further. "It is dangerous even to walk; everything is an obstacle, and it was also raining. Everyone was waiting for the daylight.”

“I thought it was like us Christians waiting for the birth of Jesus to see the right roads to walk.”

"Mission accomplished"

Also in Kyiv, the Almoner visited the Missionaries of Charity, the Sisters of Mother Teresa, who are also involved in supporting the Ukrainian population.

Cardinal Krajewski with the Missionaries of Charity
Cardinal Krajewski with the Missionaries of Charity

Specifically, they run a dormitory in the war zone, hosting about 30 people. They take in those who have lost family members and host approximately 150-200 people three or four times a week for lunch.

"I celebrated Mass with them, then had lunch in the Nunciature, and in the afternoon, I went to see other religious communities: the Capuchins, the Sisters of the Family of Nazareth,” Cardinal Krajewski recounted. 

“I walked around, and you can hear everywhere the sounds of generators. Quite a few came from Italy because of the incredible generosity of the people. All the ones we brought ourselves have already been distributed and are working. I would say the mission is accomplished.”

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27 December 2022, 15:45